“Oh, but she does know where it is,” Jenna said angrily.
Sarah brightened. “Well, that’s wonderful.”
“But she wouldn’t tell me.”
“She wouldn’t tell you?”
“Not until I’m Queen.”
Sarah was appalled. “Even though you told her how important it was?”
“Yup. She said that she knows where she left it, but given the disgusting mess everywhere, she could not say where it is now.”
“Well, that’s it!” said Sam. “She’s told you where it is.”
“What do you mean?” asked Jenna.
“Think about it—where is the one place that Cerys has seen that is a disgusting mess?”
“Oh, wow! Sam you are just brilliant! It must be in—”
“Mum’s room!” chorused Jenna, Sam, Edd, Erik and Jo-Jo.
Sarah Heap looked offended. “I know it’s a bit lived-in, but I think calling my little sitting room a disgusting mess is going too far.”
Some minutes later, Sarah’s little sitting room was even more of a disgusting mess. The efforts of four heavy-footed Forest Heaps plus a frantic Jenna and an embarrassed Sarah (who was trying to clear up little dried mounds of duck poo as they went) had reduced what fragile order there had been to a massive pile of what Jenna called “stuff” in the middle of the room. And on top of the stuff sat Ethel the duck, roosting like a wild turkey on its nest.
Jenna looked around the unusually empty room in despair. “It’s not here,” she said. “Mum, are you sure you’ve never seen it?”
“Never,” declared Sarah. “And I know I would have remembered a little golden pyramid. It sounds so cute.”
“Maybe my mother didn’t mean this room after all,” said Jenna disconsolately. “After all, the whole Palace is a mess, really.”
“But the Queen hasn’t seen the rest of the Palace,” said Sam. He kicked the fluffy rabbit doorstop in frustration.
“Hey,” said Jenna. “It didn’t move.”
“It’s a doorstop,” said Sam. “That’s the whole point.”
In a flash, Jenna was on the floor trying to pick up the rabbit. “It’s so heavy!” she gasped. “Mum—scissors!”
Sarah looked at the pile of stuff in panic. “They must be somewhere . . .”
Suddenly four sharp Forest knives were unsheathed.
“No!” cried Sarah. “Not Pookie!” But it was too late—the fluffy pink rabbit lay eviscerated on the floor and a small pyramid-shaped lump of leather fell out from its stuffing with a clunk.
“Poor Pookie,” said Sarah, picking up the limp rabbit.
Sam retrieved the leather pyramid and held it up triumphantly.
“That old thing?” said Sarah dismissively. “Very dull. I found it on the shelf when we moved in. It was nice and heavy, so I sewed it into Pookie to make a doorstop.”
“Sam’s right, Mum,” said Jenna. “I reckon this is it.”
“I know it is,” Sam said, excited. He sat down on the unusually empty sofa and, biting his lip in concentration, Sam carefully cut through the tightly stitched thread. As the seams opened out, Jenna was thrilled to see the shine of gold beneath. A few moments later, a small gold pyramid tumbled out onto Sam’s lap and fell onto the floor with a heavy thud. Sam picked it up and held it out to Jenna. “There you are, Jens. Just for you.”
“I’ve got it!” yelled Jenna, triumphant. Clutching the pink rabbit—which had seemed the safest place to keep the slippery and remarkably heavy little pyramid—Jenna jumped into the Purple Tube and took her seat next to Septimus. “Let’s go!”
“Why have you got Pookie?” asked Septimus as Jenna plonked the eviscerated rabbit—which Sarah had quickly stitched closed—down between them.
“Pyramid,” said Jenna, still breathless. “Pyramid in Pookie.”
“Oh. Right.” Septimus shook his head in bemusement.
Guided by Marcellus, Jenna and Septimus piloted the Tube through the Ice Tunnels, heading toward the Wizard Tower. The Tube’s runners bumped along the slush, scraping the brick below, and the thuds of chunks of ice falling from the roof and hitting the metal Tube reverberated inside. The headlight illuminated the brick-lined walls of the old Ice Tunnels and the pools of water that gathered in the dips of the tunnels. More than once they had to take the Tube down into water-filled dips of the tunnels, some of which Septimus remembered sledding through with Beetle not so very long ago.
Jenna and Septimus glanced anxiously at each other but Marcellus was surprisingly jolly. “Back to normal, at last,” he said.
Septimus said nothing. Marcellus had always been disapproving about the Ice Tunnels and he didn’t want to get into an argument right then. But he knew how thick the ice was in some of the narrower tunnels and Septimus could not help but ask himself, Where was it going to go?
Some minutes later, Jenna said sharply, “Did you hear that?”
Septimus nodded. He could hear a deep rumble behind them. Automatically he glanced back over his shoulder, forgetting that the Tube had no back window. All he saw was Marcellus sitting bolt upright, and, despite the bruise spreading across his right eye, looking very perky indeed. Smug, even, thought Septimus.
The Tube began to shake and behind them they heard a thunderous roar as though an army of horses was galloping toward them.
Jenna gasped. “Something’s coming,” she said. She, too, swung around in her seat, forgetting there was no back window. Marcellus no longer looked smug.
Suddenly the roar enveloped them. A wall of water picked up the Tube and at once they too became part of the noise, the rush, the dust, the grit, and the surge of the flood that was rushing through the now ex–Ice Tunnels. Terrifyingly fast and out of control, they were swept along with the flood. Septimus struggled to keep hold of the wheel that steered the Tube while Jenna stared wide-eyed through the swash of the water, desperate not to miss the turn to the Wizard Tower. At last through the spray, Jenna picked out the initials “WT,” with a large purple hand painted onto the wall that pointed to a wide tunnel branching off to the left.
“Left!” she yelled. “Left!” Together she and Septimus fought the wheel around to the left and felt the Tube reluctantly turn. The nose stuck briefly in the mouth of the tunnel, but then it was swung around by the floodwater and sent hurtling on past the turn, buffeted from side to side, crashing along with the flood.
“It’s a circuit!” yelled Septimus. “We’ll go around and try again!”
“Okay, Sep! We can do it!”
On the backseat Marcellus looked green. He was beginning to think that maybe the Ice Tunnels weren’t such a bad idea, all things considered.
Marcia UnLocked the door to the Stranger Chamber and peered inside. Alther greeted her wearily. Although ghosts do not tire physically, they can still become mentally tired, and after spending more than twenty-four hours in close proximity to Nursie and Merrin, Alther was feeling like a wet rag. Nursie was snoring in the Stranger Chair, while Merrin was sprawled on the sofa kicking the table legs and watching the water jug wobble.
“Good morning, Merrin,” said Marcia.
Merrin stared at Marcia. “Morning,” he said suspiciously.
Nursie opened her eyes. At the sight of the ExtraOrdinary Wizard, Nursie came straight to the point. “You keeping us prisoner?” she asked.
“Midwife Meredith, as I am sure Mr. Mella has explained, you and your son are here for your own safety.”
“Leave that lever alone!” shouted Alther.
Merrin had begun aiming desultory kicks at the lever beside the fire. “I didn’t touch it,” he said sulkily.
“I would advise you not to,” said Alther. “Marcia, a word, please.”
“Quickly, Alther,” said Marcia.
“Do I have to stay in here?” whispered Alther. “They are, as Septimus would say, doing my head in.”
“I’m sorry, Alther, but there’s no one else around right now who is Stranger Chamber–trained. Or, frankly, who I can trust not to throttle Merrin.”
“That boy is a total nightmare,” said Alther.
“Exactly. And only you can handle it, Alther. Now, I really must go.” With that Marcia closed the door, leaving Alther alone with his charges.